Water is a minor contributor to the problem of lead poisoning, but the Milwaukee Water Works takes a proactive approach to protecting customers from lead in drinking water. The Milwaukee Water Works has not detected lead in its treated water or source water since it began testing for lead in 1992.
Water absorbs lead from solder, fixtures, and pipes found in the plumbing of some buildings and homes. Where high levels of lead are found in water, the most common sources are lead-based solder used to join copper pipe, faucets made of brass and chrome-plated brass, and in some cases, pipes made of lead that connect a home to the water main.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), two types of homes are primarily at risk from lead contamination from drinking water:
In 1986, Congress banned the use of solder containing more than 0.2% lead and restricted the lead content of faucets, pipes, and other plumbing materials. Houses that have copper services do not have measurable lead in the water.
The Milwaukee Water Works began a corrosion control program in 1996, which has resulted in a significant improvement in lead at customers' taps. We add a phosphorous compound to the water that forms a coating on the inside of pipes to prevent lead from leaching from plumbing materials into the water.
In accordance with EPA regulations, MWW has tested for lead every year since 1996 at selected "at-risk" homes identified by the EPA as containing certain plumbing features. If an individual home exceeds EPA action levels, the MWW advises those residents of the results and provides guidance on how to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water.
Most recent tests indicate Milwaukee water is in compliance with lead regulations. Concerned residents can take several precautionary steps to further limit possible exposure.
Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. It is possible that lead levels in your home may be higher than at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your house plumbing. For additional information call the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline, 800-426-4791.